Can Cabernet Franc ‘make it’ in Australia?
Long considered just a blending grape, I talked up the future of Orange’s Cab Franc just the other week, and this new Terre à Terre Cabernet Franc is another star-in-the-making. But will consumers warm to all things Franc?
Xavier Bizot thinks it is the future of Wrattonbully, noting that his ’14 Cab Franc (below) shows that lovely herbal edge more associated with Chinon but with the power of right bank Bordeaux. A nice combination really.
Personally, I can see the appeal of fragrant, spicy Cabernet Franc. The only problem is that not everyone’s a fan of that occasional herbal edge, and the astringency can be a hurdle. Again, time will tell – and I’m predicting that sommeliers will be the ones championing the variety.
In the meantime, these two new Terre à Terre wines impressed me greatly. I tasted them first with Xavier a few weeks back, and even in that slightly hurried first sip the Franc’s class shone through. A closer look reveals that it’s even classier than I first thought. High fives all round.
Both of these wines come from the freshly named Crayères close planted vineyard, which sits just across the road from Xavier’s father-in-law Brian Croser’s Whalebone Vineyard. If you’re ever in Wrattonbully, it’s worth a drive up to look at the two properties, with the low, stumpy Terre à Terre vines quite a contrast to anything else in the South East (and looking more like a little slice of Bordeaux). Beautiful red dirt too (have a squizz here).
Terre à Terre Cabernet Franc 2014
2014 was a vintage that started cool and humid and ended up warm and mild. The Crayères vineyard is effectively hand-pick only, with the 1.5m row spacing too small for anything but mini-tractors and feet (or maybe a horse). The fruiting wire is 50cm off the ground, which also means it would be a bastard to pick. Bags not.
The fruit, once picked, was transported to the Tiers winery in the Adelaide Hills, fermented in 1-tonne fermenters and spending 24 days on skins. It was then aged for 18 months in 30% new barriques. Numbers: pH 3.58, TA 5.3g/L.
Deep red ruby, the nose shows that welcome hint of Franc herbs and black leaf alongside redcurrant and a little cinnamon. Very Franc! Quite pretty too. Bright and energetic palate has light red fruit, a background splash of vanilla oak and then a warming, spicy finish, the vibrancy so appealing and then filled out with fine, biting tannins. There’s just a little alcohol warmth on the tail, but it’s not enough to derail that flow of spicy, ‘I’ve been to St Emilion and bought the t-shirt’ red and occasionally black fruit.
Nice wine indeed and will fill out further with another few years in bottle. Big fan. Best drinking: 2018-2026. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.3%, $39. Would I buy it? I’d like a few bottles for sure just to see watch it mature.
Terre à Terre Shiraz 2014
The key difference between this wine and the Franc are the oak treatment – this was matured for 12 months in 70% new oak and then racked to a single older 5,000L foudre. There’s also 9% Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix. Numbers: pH 3.65, TA 5.1g/L, VA 0.43g/L
Deep ruby colour – deeper than the Cab Franc. Immediately this shows more choc milkshake oak on nose and palate, though it’s lush and classy oak. Hints of licorice on the nose too. Glossy, chocolatey palate is very tight and youthful, graceful save for the spirituous alcohol on the finish. Very savoury and fine, the only distraction here is the warm finish. Cool and classy, but not in the same frame as the beautiful Cab Franc, though it will live (and probable even longer than the Franc). I’d still like some of this to see where it goes – all class. Best drinking: 2019-2030. 18/20, 93/100+. 14.3%, $39. Would I buy it? A bottle to see how it looks in a few years.
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